Striving to make it easier

Since the beginning of human evolution, we have been training our memory. And yet, most of us struggle with people’s names. Let us look at two powerful ways to make remembering easier.

The first technique is called memory palace, and used by several professionals in memory competitions. Let us say you wish to remember a list. The idea is to walk around a space that you know well, such as your house or your neighbourhood, and mentally plant each item on this list somewhere in this space. Let’s say your shopping list has avocados, coconut oil and almonds, imagine an avocado rolling on your welcome mat, coconut oil spilled on your couch and almonds grinding on your kitchen top. This technique harnesses our spatial memory skills, which we developed during eons of living as hunter-gatherers.

The second technique is the use of rhythm and rhymes. I remember hundreds of verses of Sanskrit text (shlokas) without knowing their meaning. Shlokas were written with a strict meter and rhythm that made suitable for memorization. The Mongolian armies of Genghis Khan often formulated battle tactics in rhymes. People who design catchy slogans and taglines understand the need for simplicity and rhythm around the words they use, to make these messages stick to people’s minds.

And yet, these techniques are not put to use by most students or by people who need to train their memory. They often require a lateral investment in creative effort before they yield results – efforts we are not likely to put in under examination stress. But just like training our muscles, they grow easier with each attempt.

Making things easier often requires some creativity and courage to depart from the difficult things we have been doing for years. That investment, if made wisely, can often yield compounding returns.

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